NPR logo A Song of Faith, Devotion and Lung Power

A Song of Faith, Devotion and Lung Power


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Monday's Pick

  • Song: "The Story"
  • Artist: Brandi Carlile
  • CD: The Story
  • Genre: Roots-Pop

Full-sized voices — voices more than willing to flaunt lung power and sheer loudness — are everywhere these days. Any installment of American Idol brings a slew of them, often applied to songs woefully inappropriate for such a delivery.

Brandi Carlile merges vocal force with genuine feeling. hide caption

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A voice that can merge force with genuine (as opposed to acted-out) feeling is another matter altogether, which is where Brandi Carlile, a relatively new talent from Seattle, comes in. Carlile has a big, hungry throb in her throat, never more so than on "The Story," the title track from her second album. Written by Phil Hanseroth, who plays bass in Carlisle's band, it's a song of long-time devotion — "All of these lines across my face / tell you the story of who I am," it begins — that might just be just another lovelorn throwaway if it weren't for Carlile's voice. When she amps up the volume, need, desperation and anxiety come out with it, and though she didn't write the song, it's clear that she means every word of it.

"The Story" starts the way so many T-Bone Burnett productions do: with soft, tasteful guitar twang. But soon enough, the power chords grab hold, bringing to mind Brenda Lee backed by members of Pat Benatar's band. Thanks to that voice, though, the results are neither cheesy nor needlessly retro. They're simply human, communicating the way big voices are meant to.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

This column originally ran on Apr. 9, 2007.

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